One thing that allows human beings to live together is their ability to read one another’s emotions before the frying pans start to fly. If personal robots are to join the household, they’ll have to learn how to deal with emotions as well. Pepper is a semi-humanoid robot designed to do just that, with the ability to gauge human emotions and alter its behavior accordingly as a way to better fit into family life.

Pepper was jointly developed by SoftBank Mobile and Aldebaran Robotics SAS, which is the company responsible for the NAO and NAO Next Gen humanoid robots. Looking like an affable plastic anime character, the robot stands 121 cm (47.6 in) tall and weighs 28 kg (61.7 lb). Being an indoor robot, it travels at a leisurely 3 km/h (1.8 mph), with its joints designed for graceful movement to allow it to communicate with families in a natural manner.

To help it interact with those around it, Pepper is equipped with a suite of sensors that includes four microphones, a pair of color video cameras, 3D sensor, touch sensors, bump sensors, lasers, sonar, and gyros positioned in the head, body, arms, and legs. It also boasts voice recognition capabilities and features a 10.1-in touchscreen display on its chest, while an in built Wi-Fi module keeps it connected to the internet.

SoftBank Mobile says that Pepper makes jokes, dances, and generally amuses thanks to software developed by Yoshimoto Robotics Laboratory, Inc. It can run for around 12 hours on its lithium-ion battery, and has auto balance capabilities, along with anti-collision and safety features.

Pepper is programmed to study what is going on in its vicinity and react appropriately based on its proprietary algorithms and information drawn from a continually evolving cloud-based database. According to SoftBank Mobile, the robot is capable of emotion recognition by gauging expressions and voice tones, and it can modify its behavior based on what it sees and hears. In addition, by the time of its commercial launch, the company says it will also have the ability to learn through experience. It will also be able to run apps that will allow Pepper's capabilities to be expanded.

Pepper is currently on display at the SoftBank Omotesando and SoftBank Ginza stores in Japan, where visitors can talk and interact with the robot, with SoftBank Mobile planning to introduce Pepper to other stores throughout the country in the future. In September, the company will release the Aldebaran software development kit to help third parties create new apps and aid in Pepper’s development.

Pepper will be on sale in Japan in February2015 at a base price of ¥198,000 (US$1,900).

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